Word of the Day

Saturday, December 05, 2020

tirrivee

[ tur-uh-vee ]

noun

Scot.

a tantrum.

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What is the origin of tirrivee?

Tirrivee “a tantrum, a display of bad temper” is another perplexing Scots word with no secure etymology. It may be a variant or corruption of the verb tailyevey “to move from side to side, rock” another Scots word of no known etymology. Sir Walter Scott used tirrivee in his Waverley novels, enough to ensure the word’s survival. Tirrivee entered English in the early 19th century.

how is tirrivee used?

Say that you forgive me, that you love me not a whit the less for my yesterday’s tirrivee

Jane Baillie Welsh to Thomas Carlyle, 1824, in Carlyle Till Marriage, 1923

What a tirrivee Dominie was in!

John Innes, Till A' the Seas Gang Dry, 1924

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Friday, December 04, 2020

antediluvian

[ an-tee-di-loo-vee-uhn ]

adjective

very old, old-fashioned, or out of date; antiquated.

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What is the origin of antediluvian?

Antediluvian “occurring before the biblical Flood (in Genesis); very old, old-fashioned, or out of date,” comes from the Latin preposition and prefix ante, ante– “before” (naturalized in English) and the noun dīluvium “flood, deluge, inundation,” a derivative of the verb dīluere “to dissolve and wash away” (dīlūtus, the past participle of dīluere, is the source of English dilute). The original meaning of antediluvian was to biblical events or people before the Flood, such as the patriarchs between Adam and Noah; the exaggerated sense “very old, old-fashioned, out of date” developed in the first half of the 18th century. Antediluvian entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is antediluvian used?

How can it be that in a country that landed men on the moon, antediluvian locomotives are pushing and pulling dirty, smelly, 50-year-old cars perforated by rust, past crumbling stations, over track that looks like spilled overcooked spaghetti?

Serge Nedeltscheff, "A Conspiracy at the L.I.R.R.?" New York Times, December 8, 1996

So my on-the-job training in science writing started in the antediluvian age when magazines and newspapers held a near-monopolistic control over science writing.

Carl Zimmer, "A Note to Beginning Science Writers," National Geographic, June 24, 2013

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Thursday, December 03, 2020

doomscrolling

[ doom-skroh-ling ]

noun

the practice of obsessively checking online news for updates, especially on social media feeds, with the expectation that the news will be bad, such that the feeling of dread from this negative expectation fuels a compulsion to continue looking for updates in a self-perpetuating cycle.

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What is the origin of doomscrolling?

Doomscrolling, one our top word trends in 2020, sounds something like the Doomsday Machine in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Dr. Strangelove (1964). (The phrases doomsday machine and doomsday bomb actually date to 1960.) Doomscrolling and its verb doomscroll are very recent neologisms, modeled on doomsday, the day of the Last Judgment, a belief common to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. Scroll and scrolling are used in their computer sense “moving text up, down, or across a display screen.”

how is doomscrolling used?

Doomscrolling will never actually stop the doom itself. Feeling informed can be a salve, but being overwhelmed by tragedy serves no purpose.

Angela Watercutter, "Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health," Wired, June 25, 2020

Another trick is to wear a rubber band around your hand while you are reading the news, and when you believe you are succumbing to doomscrolling, snap the rubber band against your wrist …

Brian X. Chen, "You're Doomscrolling Again. Here's How to Snap out of It," New York Times, July 15, 2020

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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

hebetude

[ heb-i-tood, -tyood ]

noun

the state of being dull; lethargy.

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What is the origin of hebetude?

Hebetude comes straight from the Late Latin noun hebetūdō, a derivative of the adjective hebes (inflectional stem hebet-) “blunt, dull (physical or mental), obtuse (angle or person).” Hebetūdō first appears in the Commentary on the “Dream of Scipio” (ca. a.d. 430) by the pagan author Macrobius. Macrobius’ Commentary was so popular and influential in late antiquity and the Middle Ages and so important and invaluable a source for Neoplatonic philosophy that its numerous manuscripts cannot be sorted into families. Hebes has no known etymology; scholars cannot even blame hebes on the Etruscans (their usual go-to for strange Latin words). Hebetude entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is hebetude used?

Why did I take up Latin at this late age? I did so not only to fight off hebetude but also to avoid becoming my mother.

Ann Patty, Living with a Dead Language, 2016

Urban hebetude, he discovers, can be cured at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Richard B. Woodward, "Armchair Traveler," New York Times, October 31, 2008

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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

beneficence

[ buh-nef-uh-suhns ]

noun

the doing of good; active goodness or kindness; charity.

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What is the origin of beneficence?

Beneficence “active goodness or kindness; charity,” comes via French bénéficence from Latin beneficentia “kindness, kind treatment of others,” a derivative of the adjective beneficus “generous, liberal, kind.” Beneficus is a compound composed of the adverb and prefix bene, bene– “well,” a derivative of the adjective bonus “good” (and completely naturalized in English), and the combining form –ficus (English –fic) “making, producing” (as in honorific, pacific) a derivative of the all-purpose, overworked verb facere “to do, make, construct.” Beneficence entered English in the early 15th century.

how is beneficence used?

My general misery was alleviated by what felt like a measure of Victorian beneficence: I had the run of the house’s library.

Thomas Mallon, "Frenemies," The New Yorker, May 25, 2015

Better still would be the inculcation into all our moral considerations of beneficence as an internal good rather than an ethical calculation. Be good for goodness’ sake.

Michael Shermer, "Does the Philosophy of 'the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number' Have Any Merit?" Scientific American, May 1, 2018

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Monday, November 30, 2020

consequential

[ kon-si-kwen-shuhl ]

adjective

having important effects or results.

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Why we chose consequential

What is the origin of consequential?

Consequential “following as an effect or result; having important effects or results; self-important, pompous” is a derivation of consequence, from Latin consequentia “succession, sequence (of events), logical or necessary sequence,” ultimately a derivative of the verb consequī “to come or go after, follow, attend,” a compound of the prefix con-, a variant of com– “together, with,” and the simple verb sequī “to follow.” The sense “self-important, pompous” does not exist in Latin; it developed within English in the mid-18th century. Consequential entered English in the first half of the 17th century. Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year for 2020 is a consequential word for a consequential year. Think you know what it is? Find out!

how is consequential used?

The world is changed forever: No matter how deeply affected you are—medically, financially, emotionally, or otherwise—there is no going back. But the decisions we make about how to proceed now are extremely consequential, and the potential outcomes before us are vastly different.

James Hamblin, "Social Distance: Three Scenarios for How This Ends," The Atlantic, March 31, 2020

But in the middle of a pandemic, the most consequential of disaster decisions become complicated by fears of contagion.

Patricia Mazzei, "What Happens If a Hurricane Hits During the Pandemic?" New York Times, May 24, 2020

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Sunday, November 29, 2020

immemorial

[ im-uh-mawr-ee-uhl, -mohr- ]

adjective

extending back beyond memory, record, or knowledge.

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What is the origin of immemorial?

Immemorial “extending back beyond memory or knowledge” ultimately comes from the Medieval Latin adjective immemoriālis, equivalent to the Latin negative or privative prefix im-, a variant of –in, and (liber) memoriālis “record (book).” Immemorial entered English in the early 17th century.

how is immemorial used?

Practical foresters contend and can demonstrate that from time immemorial fire has been the salvation and preservation of our California sugar and white pine forests.

George L. Hoxie, "How Fire Helps Forestry," Sunset, August 1910

Perhaps the most esoteric of the European minority nations is the nation of Wales, Cymru in Welsh, which lives in the flank of England cherishing its own immemorial culture, squabbling and demanding more independence from the United Kingdom.

Jan Morris, "Druids for a Day, Bards Forever," Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2013

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